Museum of Natural History Breaks Ground for New Gilder Center; ‘Here We Go, Bravo, and Thank You’

Dignitaries and first graders at the groundbreaking for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.

By Carol Tannenhauser

It had the feel of a party, and everyone looked great. The mood was buoyant; people greeted each other warmly; cries of “Hi, haven’t seen you in ages” floated above the crowd. The man of the hour arrived in a golf cart. The mayor was five minutes late.

Richard Gilder (in the bowtie) greeted attendees from a golf cart.

It was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, held on Wednesday morning in a large tent overlooking the site where the Center will rise—on the Columbus Avenue side of the American Museum of Natural History.

In attendance were trustees of the Museum, donors to the Gilder Center, major patrons, elected officials, representatives of the community, and a class of first graders from a local public school, dressed as ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. The weather was glorious. The speeches were uplifting.

It’s been a long windup to this moment — the Gilder Center was first mentioned publicly in 2014, but it just passed its last legal hurdle in April.

Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“This museum is quintessentially New York,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Extraordinary things happen here. The Gilder Center will be a place where a whole new generation learns a devotion to science. Sparks will fly and young people will become devoted to the work of preserving our planet and protecting us all.”

Jeanne Gang, architect of the 230,000-square-foot addition to the museum, said, “Our driving inspiration was to make a place that not only works for your understanding of science and your brain, but also for your heart and love of beautiful spaces. When you get inside, it will be a place that makes you want to explore and discover science.”

Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President, said: “The place for science and education is right here on the west side of Manhattan. This center will raise the already awesome work of the Museum to a new level.”

“Here we go, bravo, and thank you,” Museum President Ellen Futter concluded.

    1. Sherman says:

      I’m sad to see green space eliminated but overall this new addition is a net positive for the community and the museum.

    2. Steen says:

      It’s about time! I was hoping my child would be able to enjoy this center while he was still in middle school. Unfortunately, given all the ridiculous delays, this won’t happen, but I am happy that other generations of children will be able to learn in such an amazing pace.

    3. UWSer says:

      It’s a sad day. As with all things in NYC lately, this is a gain for tourists and a loss for New Yorkers. Yeah, Central Park’s nearby, I know. This is still a loss for young neighborhood kids who ride their scooters where the Gilder Center will be, and for anyone who doesn’t have time to go into the park but just wants a quick spot to sit down. The beauty of this space was that it wasn’t clogged with tourists like the W 81st Central Park entrance is. This was just a quiet nook, a space to take a few minutes out. The mallification of this city is among the saddest things I’ve witnessed. Anything for a quick buck.

      • Jayz says:

        Not once in all my years have I seen a child ride their scooter on the concrete pad there. Only rarely have I seen people sit there. The reason is simple; it’s not a very nice place compared to the rest of the park.

        Things change. The neighborhood will be better for it in the end.

        • UWSer says:

          Jayz, I have seen young children riding scooters there nearly every time I’ve gone. I’m not sure when you’ve been, but it’s a haven for kids, caregivers and the elderly.

          • Jay says:

            I don’t know.. I probably walk by every other day. I guess it’s easy to see what you want to see.

            Regardless, if there are kids and nannies who use the space they are in luck because there’s still plenty of areas in Roosevelt and Central Park for the same activities. Plus, when it’s done they’ll have a great place to visit some more.

      • John says:

        An education focused addition to an already world class museum is hardly “mallification of the city” – And if this is among the saddest things you’ve witnessed in your life, you’ve had a very blessed life and I wish you many more blessed years to come.

        • UWSer says:

          John, you don’t seem to understand that for some of us, love of old NY runs deep. Also, I don’t appreciate your snark about the nature of my life. It’s been a sad and difficult life, and NY is what has eased me through it.

        • GG says:

          I agree 100% with John.

      • Paul says:

        My guess is I’m pretty average among the New Yorkers whose families and friends come in from far to take their kids to this museum.
        So the notion that it’s for tourists and not “us” is, even by your absurd thinking,


        • By any other name says:

          Paul, you said that your family and friends “come in from far” to visit the museum. Does this not make them tourists rather than NYC residents?

          • Paul says:

            Do you relegate your friend ps and family to the status of “tourists.”

            When friends and family visit is that a good thing
            or do you prefer being a hermit?

      • Whyse Guy says:

        Re: “This was just a quiet nook,…”

        Do not fear, for, just as do Thomas’ English Muffins, the UWS has LOTS of “nooks and crannies”!

        And also lots of crooks and nannies.

    4. Yimby says:

      Yay!! Finally this long-awaited project has come to fruition. It will be an awesome addition to the museum, the UWS, the city and beyond!

      • Yes, it will be so awesome coming in 2022. And people who were against this was a low percentage it couldn’t even be found in the poll. After the last and final pole was tallied up last week that 99.9% of Upper West Siders “were for” the Gilder Center. This poll was taken around the museum and the surrounding neighborhoods and door to door the months of March – May 2019 / September – November 2018. E-Poll Market Research.

        • Wanda says:

          Statistics don’t lie… but these statistics sound more than fishy. 99.99% in favor? I know of a bridge if you’re interested…

          • Richard Rodgers says:

            At this point it really doesn’t matter….but it was the majority of the Upper Westside residents that do want the Gilder Center to happen. The polls are correct and it was a very very small percentage that was opposite. The American Museum of Natural History does have the right from curb to curb to build what they wish and it was in the agreement with the City Of New York back in 1869. It is a public park given to the museum and maintained by the parks department of the city of New York.

    5. j says:

      What a travesty. Just so another billionaire can get his name plastered writ large on another useless EVENT space–all because of the greed of the AMNH. Shame on all who participated in the groundbreaking, with the exception of the kids.

      • M. Gewirtz says:

        Yes- this is Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Gilder forcing this through. It IS predominantly for tourists and not for New Yorkers- when last I was there, practically all were international tourists. And Theodore Roosevelt Park is a public park- in order to get this built, they had to do some fancy footwork with the bylaws.

        • UWSer says:

          At least SOMEONE is paying attention! The AMNH is primarily a tourist attraction. Anyone who observes at the entrance or exit for a few minutes would agree. Tourist attractions don’t benefit our quality of life as New Yorkers.

          • Anna says:

            I disagree. And I live across the street. The sight of people coming from afar to see a place that is enshrined in the memory of every child, and everyone who ever was one, fills me with pleasure and pride of place. Here’s hoping the Gilder Center fulfills its promises.

            • Bob Lamm says:

              Tourist attractions bring in a hell of a lot of money that absolutely DOES help New York City residents.

    6. Ananda Apfelbaum says:

      It’s a sad day for people who have enjoyed the beautiful trees and greenery in this area which will be replaced by the gilder center. Hacking down these old magnificent irreplaceable trees by the museum of NATURAL HISTORY seems unfitting to its name. The trees can’t speak but I am sure if they could they would weep.

      • Ground Control says:

        It’s really unfortunate that more people here have no idea which is stunning for New Yorkers, that this so-called school has a major climate science denier at the helm of the museum’s education advisory committee. Rebecca Mercer gave $16 million to climate science denying organizations in 2016 or 2017. She is the owner of Breitbart News and one of the most influential people in the alt right world in bringing Trump to power. She is reported to have Introduced Steve Bannon to Trump. Mercer sits on the museum’s board-powerful and influential. Now money and only money talks. And btw Richard Gilder for whom the school is named? He was he founder of the Club for Growth. Never heard of it? Look it up. The days when New York’s institutions were bastions of liberal democracy are over.

    7. JerryV says:

      Perhaps it will spread out the people somewhat more so that there is a bit more room within the museum. I’ve been going to the museum since the 40s and with the incredible increase in tourists and the long lines, it has often become an unpleasant experience. We’ve been going ourselves, and with our children and with our grandchildren and they no longer want to go there anymore because “it is too crowded”.

    8. In 1869 this land was given by the City Of New York to The American Museum of Natural History and they have the right to build anything they wish on this land from curb to curb. Graciously they are working with the neighborhood to preserve the park. They have all the rights in the world to do what they wish. The people who donated funds to prevent this are the losers of time and their money.
      The West 80th Street Block Association congratulates with “Kudos” to the American Museum of Natural History for The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation coming in 2020.

      • DKFF says:

        You are so correct – thank you Billy Amato for the statement of support and clarification to others.

      • M. Gewirtz says:

        Actually, I believe the original bylaws makes Theodore Roosevelt Park a public space, which cannot be built on without public support. This was a done deal even before public review.

        • Watch the news says:

          You sir are totally wrong… The museum has the right to this land whatever they wish to do and the people on the opposite side are now aware of this. I guess you don’t watch the news the last few days on TV CBS TV ABC TV NBC TV New York 1 – Hello!!!!!

    9. Jack Glass says:

      Taking city land for this private project is wrong. Cutting down hundreds of years worth of trees is wrong. Naming a science building after a climate-change denyer is wrong. There goes the neighborhood.

      • Chris woo says:

        Critics here would probably have the smithsonian stay swampland too so they will never be convinced. As for scooters, my kids only ever rode them here to get across to the Diana Ross playground in Central Park.

    10. UWSneigbor says:

      Does this mean the dog park is officially gone?